This is so so beautiful, I've been listening to it for the past hour and a half and it almost made me cry. Whenever I've read and listened to interviews with Ari Ne'eman (head of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, as I'm sure you know) I've had a tendency to be sort of judgmental and wonder "why is he saying that the way he is, why doesn't he explain it better." But the truth is, he is really forced into situations with the mainstream media where he has to deliver soundbites and is constantly defending himself against accusations that he doesn't have an ASD or doesn't have a significant ASD or thinks that kids with ASD should be allowed to hit their heads on walls.
This interview is with a radio show that is involved in mental health rights--not something I know much about, but it seems to tie into ASD rights in many respects. And the interviewer is just so decent and actually wants to listen to Ne'eman, with the result that he talks in depth about his experiences as a teenager in special ed where they were trying to train him to act normal. When he is actually given time and space to talk about that and make points about it, he does a really good job explaining some of the problems in the way ASD kids are "treated" a lot of the time.
He's talked about himself in interviews before, of course, but it's frequently been in a context where the interviewer is basically demanding that he justify himself--I'm fond of NPR, but the person who interviewed him there asked for an example of a recent incident that reminded him he is autistic. Why do they need to know that? Also, so much time in those interviews is taken up with him using the phrase "disability rights," and then the interviewer jumps on it like, "SO YOU ADMIT AUTISM IS A DISABILITY." Or if he doesn't use the phrase "disability rights," the interviewer says like they think he doesn't know, "Well autism is disabling! Kids hit their heads!! It's a disability! If you try to say it's not a disability then kids will just be allowed to hit their heads all the time!"
This interview is the first time I actually feel like I understand who Ne'eman is. And I feel bad that I have had such critical reactions to his interviews before--I mean, the things he has done are massive, and he's my age, and he went to a school where they tried to train him not to be interested in public policy. Well, they sure failed in that endeavor. This is amazing shit.